Another batch of 115 Hindu families crossed over into India from the foot crossing point at Wagah in Lahore on Saturday morning as the government observed Minorities Day to commemorate founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s 'August 11' speech in which he said "religion or caste or creed… has nothing to do with the business of the State".
An earlier batch of over 200 families – most of them on a pilgrimage to Indian temples – had been detained by the Pakistani authorities on Friday for a while after the media reported that a large number of them were migrating to India to escape religious persecution. They were allowed to head off to India after about seven hours of detention.
President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday night set up a three-member committee of parliamentarians to visit the areas of Sindh from where Hindus are said to be fleeing. His party’s all-inclusive policy credentials are under question now in the wake of several attacks on minorities and smaller Muslim sects including Shias.
In his message on Minorities Day, Mr. Zardari said: "As the Quiad-e-Azam once said that Pakistan symbolises also the aspirations of a nation which found itself in a minority in the Indian sub-continent. We therefore cannot be unmindful of hopes and fears of minorities in the country. We cannot be oblivious of our responsibility to continue making efforts for bringing into the main stream of national life peoples of all faiths and allay their concerns about their rights and privileges as guaranteed by our religion and the Constitution.’’
While the Indian pilgrimage of Hindus has drawn considerable attention because of the fear that they are migrating, the economic slowdown in the country due to the security situation and energy crisis has resulted in many people seeking greener pastures. Industrialists are taking their businesses elsewhere and recently the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Government said boys from Chitral along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were joining the Afghan National Army.